By Richard Clarke
Jeremie Aliadiere and Emmanuel Adebayor shared the goals as a strong Arsenal side thumped Charlton 4-0 at Barnet FC on Monday in the opening fixture of this season's Premier Reserve League.
The home side took the lead in the 14th minute and, from then on, never looked in any danger. An experienced defence including Ashley Cole and Pascal Cygan soaked up any rare danger from the visitors while midfielders Theo Walcott and Mathieu Flamini fed the ravenous front pair.
Aliadiere scored first with Adebayor adding another in the 23rd minute. The beanpole striker fired home a penalty on the stroke of half-time after Walcott had been fouled. Just past the hour, Aliadiere completed Arsenal's scoring with a clinical fourth.
This season's Reserve campaign will be shorter than in previous years so regulars at Underhill should saviour performances like this whenever they can.
Charlton were the first to go close when Josh Wright fired a free-kick over the bar in the second minute. However the home side replied shortly afterwards when Aliadiere crossed from the right and Adebayor backflicked the ball just wide at the near post. In the seventh minute, Wright gave away the ball in midfield and Walcott drove forward before feeding Aliadiere. He cut inside to give himself space but thumped his effort just wide. The Frenchman would not have long to wait for his goal.
In the 14th minute, Armand Traore mopped up the remnants of a Charlton attack and fed Cole advancing up the left flank. He spotted Aliadiere sprinting between the two visiting centre backs. The striker timed his run perfectly to beat the offside trap, steadied himself and tucked the ball past the keeper.
The young striker could have completed a hat-trick in the following two minutes. However keeper Joe Woolley blocked on both occasions.
In the 23rd minute it was 2-0 when Walcott fed Adebayor from the right and the Togolese striker slotted home from almost exactly the same position from which the first had been scored. Arsenal were cruising.
In fairness, on the half-hour Almunia made a magnificent save to preserve the clean sheet. Wright swung over the corner from the right and Kevin Lisbie met it with a firm header eight yards out. It seemed destined for the net but the big Spaniard thrust out a hand to divert the ball over the bar at the last second.
It did not really turn the tide of the game. Before half-time, Alex Song saw a goalbound effort blocked while Cole thumped a free-kick into the arms of the goalkeeper.
Right on the whistle Nathan Ashton fouled Walcott on the right of the area and the referee pointed to the spot. The 17-year-old looked like he was going to take the spot kick but, seniority won through and Adebayor slotted home the penalty.
Having achieved such an advantage, it was inevitable that Arsenal took their foot off the pedal. Aliadiere curled a free-kick just wide eight minutes after the interval but Rashid Youssuff replied with an optimistic long-range effort on the hour.
In the 63rd minute, Aliadiere got his second and Arsenal's fourth. Adebayor showed skill on the right of the area before firing a low ball across the face of goal. Aliadiere again timed his run to perfection. He controlled the ball neatly before tucking his shot past Woolley. In the 69th minute, Aliadiere might have finally completed that hat-trick but his fast-rising volley from Adebayor's cross flew wide of the near post.
In between those goal efforts, Vincent van den Berg came for his Reserve team debut. In the 75th minute Cole and Randall made way for Paul Rodgers and Giorgos Efrem.
Adebayor had a late effort saved and Charlton defender Grant Basey sliced a chance past his own post. In the last minute Aliadiere broke up the right and unselfishly fed Efrem, whose low shot was tipped onto the post.
With almost the final kick of the match Matthew Connolly blocked James Walker's shot on the goal-line after the Charlton striker had rounded Almunia and was left with only the Arsenal captain to beat.
* On Tuesday, subscribers will also be able to enjoy match highlights exclusively on Arsenal TV Online.
Mark Randall rides a challenge
Song is strong in midfield
Adebayor fires in a shot
Ashley Cole gets a run-out
Walcott tangles with a defender
Aliadiere nets his second of the game
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- Cole 74
- Randall 65
- Walcott 74
- Rodgers 74
- Berg 65
- Efrem 74